Burton Wins Second Busch Race In A Row

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 5:22 pm
By: News On 6

HAMPTON, Ga. (AP) Jeff Burton didn't need any last-lap heroics this time. But he did need a little luck.

The longtime NASCAR star made it two Busch Series victories in a row Saturday, easily holding off Richard Childress Racing teammate and reigning Busch champion Kevin Harvick to win the Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

A week ago in Las Vegas, Burton made a late charge to catch Kyle Busch, colliding with the leader and sending Busch crashing into the wall as he zoomed past just before the checkered flag. Busch slid backward across the finish line in second.

Busch again appeared to be on the way to a victory Saturday, building leads of a full straightaway before the last of six caution flags came out on lap 167 of the 195-lap race when Todd Kluever hit the wall after being hit from behind by open-wheel star Sam Hornish Jr.

All the leaders pitted and Busch easily led everyone back onto the track. But a NASCAR official spotted a missing lug nut on Busch's left front wheel and called him back into the pits. The Hendrick Motorsports driver fell all the way to 15th for the restart.

The race restarted on lap 174 and Busch charged through the field. He got all the way to third before running out of laps.

Series points leader Carl Edwards finished fourth, followed by Casey Mears, Clint Bowyer in the third RCR car, Kasey Kahne, rookie Juan Montoya -- the former Formula One star's best stock car finish on an oval -- Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart -- all cup regulars who will also race on the 1.5-mile oval in Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500.

Stewart was penalized for pitting too soon during the last caution and restarted just behind Busch in 16th. But he was not able to get through the traffic as well as Busch.

"Obviously, the 5 car (Busch) was the class of the field," said Burton, who earned his 24th Busch win. "We thought we might have something for him there for a while, but he was just too fast. He was in another league."

Busch was bitterly disappointed again.

"All in all, it's just a frustrating, disappointing day," the 21-year-old racer said. "It's so hard to win one of these things and, when you have a car that's so good and you can't capitalize, you're ready to go home and just cry.

"I think this week's worse (than Las Vegas) because you come down pit road and you depend on those guys. They missed the lug or it fell of or whatever. Last week, there wasn't anything else I could have done except maybe squeezed (Burton) up closer to the wall."

Busch said he still thought he had a shot at the win after the late restart.

"I thought we could get through there and maybe have a shot at it, but I got held up a few times and a couple of guys raced me a little harder than I thought they would," he said. "I got up to sixth and the guys from second through fifth were bunched up there in front of me and Burton had pretty much checked out at that point."

The only problem Burton had in the race was a recurring vibration in his No. 29 Chevrolet that worried him for a while.

"I had to pit with a big vibration there at one point and I thought it was over then. But they found what was wrong," he said. "Then I got another vibration with about five laps to go, but I couldn't pit then."

Harvick, who won nine races last season, was happy to follow his teammate across the finish line.

"I'm happy as long as both of our cars finish second," he said. "I don't care which one is first and which one is second."